People tend to say that college is a time for exploration, a time for knowledge, and a time for understanding; these three have all proven to be true in my last year as a student. My views on the world around me have drastically changed since the moment that I stepped foot onto Ohio State's campus. For the first time in my life, I was truly forced to think for myself. Luckily, I lived in an environment which encouraged me to be an independent thinker and learner, but the reality is that you do pick up on things and tend to be influenced by the attitudes and behaviors from those around you.
So for the first time in my adult life, I was forced to think outside of my bubble of Milford, Ohio. All of a sudden I was surrounded by people who looked like me, which was far too uncommon in my 92% Caucasian school. (And yes, that is the true percentage.) I was also surrounded by a plethora of international students who share the same love for education that I do, and a variety of other students with diverse identities.
I never imagined that I would have loved exiting that bubble as much as I did, mainly because I never realized how dangerous it was to be surrounded by people who did not challenge me to think bigger, to be more open-minded, or to explore the rest of the world around me. Oftentimes, it felt like many of the people who lived in my hometown never had a desire to leave or get a taste of what the rest of the world could surely offer them.
After a reflection of my growth in the past year, I have thought about what is so compelling about being on a college campus. I love college because it makes me think. It makes me reflect. And most of all, it challenges me. It challenges me to take a hard look at my own perspectives and stereotypes and challenges me to reflect on my prejudices and understand where they come from. I have learned so much about how I think and how I am influenced by my environment.
Here I am a year later, and I know that my thought process has truly developed and matured along the way. I recognize that the shortcomings of my mindsets were because of where I was and what I was exposed to, which reminds me of how people tend to make generalizations about groups of people since they have never actually interacted with them. I can only say that I am grateful for this opportunity to receive an education at an institution that has exposed me to more than I have been exposed to in my whole life. While Ohio State is still a predominately white institution, I am exposed to diversity on a variety of levels: thoughts, religions, ethnicities, and much more.
Long gone are my days of assimilating to whiteness because that is what I thought I had to do. Now I know who I am, and I am appreciative of the mental and emotional journey that has helped me become who I am. Leaving that bubble was one of the best things I could have done for myself. While it may have been comfortable, it stifled me and did not provide opportunities for growth.